MALAYA: Migrante says gov’t efforts wanting in OFW case

By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ and JP LOPEZ
Malaya
Nov. 20, 2007

TOSSING eggs and shouting slogans at the gates of the Department of Foreign Affairs building along Roxas Boulevard, members of Migrante International on Monday deplored Marilou Ranario’s “long wait” for government support even as they expressed hope that President Arroyo’s last-ditch pleas for clemency will not fall on deaf ears in Kuwait.

Ranario, 35, was sentenced to die by hanging on Sept. 28, 2005 by Kuwait’s Court of First Instance for allegedly killing her employer. She appealed her sentence and the Kuwaiti Supreme Court is set to hand down its final verdict on Dec. 27.

Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas Regalado accused government of wasting precious time from Jan. 11, 2005 when Ranario surrendered to Kuwaiti authorities, until April 2005 when the DFA first provided lawyers for the embattled OFW. “Now, more than two years after Marilou was convicted and sentenced to die, we hear that President Arroyo is belatedly appealing to Kuwait for clemency and leniency. We hope and pray that the President’s efforts are not too late. Presidential intervention should have been made two years ago even before the court convicted Marilou,” Regalado said.

Regalado also criticized both Vice President Noli de Castro and the DFA for conflicting statements and empty assurances on the Ranario case. “For example, during a recent inter-agency dialogue with Marilou’s family which was organized by the Save Marilou Ranario Movement, the DFA representative said that the government is ready to pay blood money in exchange for Marilou’s life.

“But the DFA official failed to state that the blood money had already been refused,” said Regalado, stressing that “the government should be careful and sensitive, and it starts with being honest in their statements.”

In a statement, the DFA claimed that “throughout her detention and the judicial proceedings”, Filipino diplomats “spared no effort to assist Ranario and her family… Five seasoned and highly respected Kuwaiti lawyers have so far been provided by the government to defend her.”

But Migrante claimed that Ranario received “very little assistance” from the Arroyo government in her first year of detention until her conviction for murder. “Our global campaign in 2005 to draw attention to Ranario’s plight compelled Vice President Noli de Castro to bring Marilou’s parents to Kuwait,” said Regalado, adding that “the Vice President immediately made boastful statements assuring Marilou’s life will be spared. Now, we all know what has happened because Ranario has been convicted by two courts and the government seems content in pretending to act.”

Regalado said Ranario’s case is another example of how protection of OFW rights and welfare is absent in the government’s “labor export policy” which she claims focuses only on how to increase OFW deployment and OFW dollar remittances.

Regalado said Migrante will launch more actions “in the last 40 days before the Kuwaiti high court gives a final verdict,” similar to the Nov. 13 internationally-coordinated protests participated by OFWs in Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, United States, and The Netherlands.

Senate President Manuel Villar yesterday filed a resolution urging the Senate to conduct an inquiry on the plight of Filipinos detained overseas. “An assessment of the legal and social remedies being afforded by our embassies and consular offices to our kababayan detained abroad for various offenses is imperative to ascertain sufficiency of assistance for the protection of OFWs,” Villar said.

Sen. Loren Legarda also urged the government to spare nothing in providing help to OFWs facing legal troubles, especially those who have been sentenced to die. She said that while justice must be afforded to all crime victims, justice must also be accorded to accused and convicted OFWs by way of ensuring they have ample legal representation abroad.

In his recent visit to the Middle East, Villar said he learned that more than 5,000 Filipinos are in prison for alleged small thefts, violations of immigration laws, and some criminal cases which are all basically an “act of self-defense” in such countries as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

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